Matteo Maria Boiardo
Count Matteo Maria Boiardo wrote at an unclear date between ca. 1460 - 1494 a poem about Trionfi cards,
which are presented by him in a 4x14 + 22 - structure.|
It was one of the oldest references to a deck with 22 trumps,
other earlier documents do suggest, that Trionfi cards were handled before in 5x13 (Lucca-Tarocchi),
5x14 (Bembo-14, Ferrarese documents of 1441 and 1457) or 5x16-structure (Cary-Yale).
From this it might be suspected, that Count Boiardo possibly invented this structure, which finally developed to
be the standard representation of the Tarocchi- or Tarot-game.
The number 22 inside the game of Tarot much later caused the suggestions of Count de Mellet and Eliphas Levi,
who claimed, that Tarot developed in context to kabbalistic ideas in relation to the 22 letters of the Hebrew
alphabet. This suggestions did take a dominant influence upon modern Tarot, especially as specific astrological
ideas connected to the Hebrew alphabet in the manner of the prekabbalistic Sepher Yetzirah
were now related to individual Tarot trumps.
Here we've the question, if Boiardo (in the case, that he really was the first, who used this scheme
for a Trionfi deck), was influenced by Hebrew contemporaries to choose just the number 22 for his trumps.
"Four passions of the lady soul
they have forty cards in this game ...
... Love, Hope, Jealousy, and Fear
are the passions, and a tercet have the cards,
in order not to leave, who plays, in error."
In this engaging glimpse of the Boiardo Tarocchi poem translated by Jane Cocker, we also touch on one of
the early turns where poetry and playing cards meet in the courtly society of 15th century. The author,
Matteo Maria Boiardo, Count of Scandiano, is usually celebrated by historical papers for his vernacular Tuscan epic, Bordering on
It is fitting to open on his light narrative, done in vernacular Tuscan, of poetic courtly love and court figures, for it was his natural self to be more of a poet than a prudent politician - but he was both in service to the D'Este.
Indeed, the four human passions also play a strong part of his life from his own family, especially jealousy and fear from the less favored.
We will allude to his work in context, but our focus is more a time-line of Boiardo's placement with the ruling family of Ferrara, the D'Estensi. We will begin with the grandfather, Feltrino Boiardo, who was a companion on Crusades to Niccolo I D'Este, then touch on influences to the growing MM Boiardo, and major events of his adult
years, associated with Duke Borso and more extensively with the successor to the Ducal Crown, Ercole. Over
time, topics might be developed by members of the working group into essay format.
(The contents of the Boiardo chapter were started in 2003 by the cooperation of the members of the Boiardo group:
Jane Cocker, Mari Hoshizaki, Raimondo Luberti, Ross Gregory Caldwell, autorbis - later cooperated Huck Meyer, Ross Caldwell and Marco [Dr. Arcanus] to finish the poem translation)